Thoughts on turning the big 7-0

FILLERS

BY JOHN CULLEN

One advantage of staying home during the pandemic is I’m not putting as many miles on the car, although now would be the best time to take a trip since gas prices are the lowest they’ve been in nearly 20 years.

We had hoped to visit our daughter in Chicago and son in Virginia this spring, but that isn’t going to happen. The biggest disappointment is Bridget having to delay her wedding a year; it was supposed to happen in July in Indiana but now it will be in 2021. I think her mother is more upset about the delay than Bridget and her fiancé Branden.

This was supposed to be the summer of John. I turned 70 this month and birthdays ending in zeros are supposed to be significant. When I was 20 I thought people who were 70 were ancient. Boy, was I shortsighted.

I’m just happy to still be upright. Since people my age are more at risk for serious complications from coronavirus, when I’m advised to socially distance and wear a mask when meeting people, I do that. That’s some of the wisdom that comes with age. When I see thousands of jackasses partying last weekend in the Ozarks, I just shake my gray-haired head. Maybe teenagers aren’t worried about getting sick, but they ought to think about spreading it to their 70-year-old parents and grandparents. The same goes for idiots who belittle intelligent people for wearing masks in public. We can reopen the economy while still being smart. We just have to adjust a little to make it happen safely.

Turning 70 doesn’t bother me. Turning 60, 50, 40 and 30 didn’t bother me. Not turning 80 — now that would bother me.

The birthday that I recall as being most significant was my 21st, because then I could drink legally. And wouldn’t you know it, that year the drinking age was lowered to 18. The night I turned 21 I went with a bunch of friends bar-hopping for free drinks. Mostly we got beers, but at one place — a real workingman’s bar — the bartender said if I was really 21 I had to drink whisky like a man. I’d never had a straight shot before so I downed it like the man I thought I was. It was a rude awakening. Maybe I was still a boy. That’s the first and last time I ever drank whisky without mixing it with something. I never understood after that how cowboys in westerns could down shot after shot and then go out and face a shootout on the street in front of the saloon.

The best drink I ever had was a few weeks after my 21st birthday, when I came home from college for the summer. Dad took me to the Elks Club for a drink with him and the boys around the horseshoe bar. That day I felt like a man, and I heard my father use a swear word for the first time in my life while he was telling a joke. It’s odd how seemingly little things like that stand out in a person’s life.

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